Monday, March 12, 2012

Macarooni & Cheese

On my never-ending quest to eat my way through Europe, I always think, a stop in Paris couldn't hurt.  And with Letizia last week, we did just that: eat.  And then we ate some more.  We didn't limit ourselves just to French cuisine (in fact, for living in France, Mademoiselle Letizia nouveau Parisian isn't really one for French food), so we expanded our horizons once or twice, to Algerian and to Japanese.  It's a thrill to leave Italy and eat butter, for one, but also various international flavors that the boot considers uncouth.

My first night, we went out to Belleville for Algerian with several of Leti's visiting Italian friends at a place called Les Quatres Frères.  We ate cous cous, exotic soup, and every shish-kabob-able meat you can think of, including liver and heart (yes, I tried them, and yes, they taste like chicken).  Another night we went to a new and super popular noodle restaurant in Paris' Japantown, where you could watch the cooks in the kitchen throw all discarded food to the floor, which was a sort of giant grate into which they hose all the leftovers. 

Mon dieu!  But let us not digress from our real goal: cuisine française.  For a well-balanced French breakfast, every morning we went out for pastries, particularly enjoying pain au chocolat (no-brainer) and the apple turnovers from the historic establishment Stohrer.  Check out the glaze, and allow your imagination to wander through the various layers of delicate pastry even deeper to the gooey, sweet apples inside.  It was an eyeballs-rolling-into-the-back-of-my-head kind of experience. 

One misty afternoon near Notre Dame we picked up chocolate crepes Sur le Pouce, or "on the run."

The rest of our meals mostly consisted of pâté, deliciously fatty, tender meat, potatoes glazed to perfection, a variety of cheeses (my favorite being chevre, soft, fresh goat's cheese), glasses of Bordeaux, and the occasional dessert (if it's included in the meal, how can one resist?).  Among my favorite local delicacies were duck confit, escargot, and creme brulée.  Those French know how to glaze, flambé, and most certainly how to sauce it up.

We sneaked into a cute little place on the bustling, gastronomic Rue Cler, appropriately named Le Petit Cler, for an afternoon snack of escargot; granted, not one's typical afternoon snack, but the kind I would inevitably select over celery sticks any day of the week.

While visiting Letizia, I finally got to meet her good friend Cecilia whom I always hear so much about, and who is also an au pair to a French family in Paris.  We went to Butte aux Cailles to eat at a cute local place called Le Temps de Cerises, and among other things, I enjoyed a delicious salad with apple and chevre.

We had a hard time finding sub-standard food (not that we were trying), and even at a central cafe on the popular Rue Montorgueil, Letizia had a flavorful salad with duck and potatoes, and I had the plat du jour, a tender rabbit leg with potatoes au gratin (certainly the best au gratin I've ever had).  If y'all hadn't been sure that I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl before, I think this post has made it an indisputable fact.

But still somehow, in Paris, it's like my 25-year sweet tooth starts to grow in, breaks right through the gums, and I can't get enough pastries, creamy desserts, and delicate cookies.  Letizia exposed me to Pierre Hermé, a swanky macaroon joint that produces dazzling spins on traditional flavors.  We selected several (I wanted to bring some to Shawn in Madrid) and my first has to also have been my favorite: chocolate with passion fruit.  Each chew provided a new intensity mixed with a new burst of flavor.  How they manage all that in one tiny cookie is beyond me, but I guess it's how they can charge 2.50 a pop.  

As I kept saying in my most terrible attempt at a Julia Child impression the whole trip, Bon Appetìt!

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